Reality Steve

Temptation Island

“Temptation Island” – Nell Kalter’s Finale Recap

Don’t be jealous, but I’m sort of a scholar when it comes to slasher movies. I have read every single academic text written about the hemoglobin-spattered dirty subgenre of horror – there are far more than you’d think! – so I am quite well versed in the narrative and stylistic iconography particular to a collection of movies that all seem to end with a body count. I know slashers are set in isolated locations and that those locations are populated by a gaggle of nubile young adults who are ready and willing to sit on some faces. I know the viewer is meant to feel exactly nothing when most of the characters suddenly disappear because we haven’t invested in any of them in the slightest. I know there is usually one survivor – our resilient Final Girl – and we are meant to root for her because she seems decent and kind and because she’s the person about whom we’ve learned the most. And I know with the certainty of a person who has watched hundreds of these movies through a shield of shaking fingers covering my eyes that anything that transpires beside a f*cking bonfire in the middle of the woods will only lead to terror.

(I also know to expect to see a sequel in less time than it would take a rational person to sputter “Why in the name of all that is holy would anyone head to that island willingly? You can become an Instagram sponsor of some waist cincher that doesn’t actually work by appearing on The Bachelor for only two episodes or by getting adopted by a set of parents who are willing to shill out half a million dollars to a university that pretends to believe you’re a crew star because you shoved one picture of yourself straddling a rowing machine into your application! You do not have to shlep your significant other to their televised doom to become temporarily famous anymore! This is America, for f*ck’s sake!”)

Now that we’re about to reach the very end of the season, I see no other way of looking at Temptation Island as anything other than a terrifying but rather predictable slasher film. The show has followed most of the conventions of the genre, though it’s been sweat dotting the faces of those involved instead of blood. The “characters” we couldn’t have cared less about were knocked off one by one and we barely realized they were gone. We’ve witnessed a bunch of (metaphorical) death scenes, we’ve seen footage of morons writhing beneath sheets, we’re aware a new installment of this show is coming soon to a cable box near you, and we also recognize quite clearly who the Very Bad Man is on the island. But we also know that the majority of the horror in scenarios such as these comes near the end, so before we can arrive at the actual slaughter, we must first trudge through the slicing and dicing of John’s heart, which I see as an amuse bouche for us to nibble on before the main course massacre. We will eventually arrive at The Implosion of Evan & Kaci, but you’ve got yourself some time to prepare, so feel free to carb up or to assemble stacks of tissues around you like a fort or to toss on your newly-bedazzled I Hate Evan sleeveless tee while you take the kind of deep meditative breaths Brittany would probably recommend because we’ve got ourselves some time to, um, kill.

And speaking of symbolic killings, where last we left them, John and Kady were sitting on tree stumps beside a blazing fire and John was explaining to Kady how badly it hurt him to hear her question his potential as a father. His eloquence under pressure was lovely, so of course Kady did the only thing she possibly could in such a situation: she looked him straight in the eye and told him that he makes her uterus want to go on strike. Even the host of the show had to quickly reconstruct his features so it wouldn’t appear that he was in utter shock and then he had to inform this once devoted couple that they need to make a decision about their future. Hasn’t that decision already kind of been made? Is there any f*cking chance John would choose to continue living with a woman who has publicly questioned his virility and his ability to adequately be a father? And listen: I am all for being honest and speaking my mind, but there had to be a more compassionate way for Kady to communicate her concerns without betraying her own belief system in the process, right? She had three weeks (well, three years and three weeks) to figure out how to assemble words into some variation of a sentence that wouldn’t cause John – a man she has said is kind and sweet and loving – to feel like he was croaking inside. This is what she came up with? I mean, I get that there are no books permitted on that island, but could production maybe have provided just one f*cking thesaurus for all of them to share so Kady could have maybe chosen some different words to communicate her fears? Couldn’t she just tell him that he’ll never be the dictator she craves or that Johnny’s d*ck is bigger or that she’s loved her time away from the real world so completely that she’s nominated herself to participate in the next biosphere project and you can only go underground if you’re single? Couldn’t she embrace her truth without destroying the guy?

John is far more a restrained person than I. He does not even attempt to rip Kady’s spleen out of her body with the fractured pieces of sticks resting underneath his feet! He instead tells her that he loves her, he wants the best for her (“Same,” she responds) and though he did have a connection with Katheryn, he’s not about to hop from one relationship to the next. John is leaving that island alone. As for Kady, she’s also leaving single. She lets John know that she still loves him and she hopes they will have a dignified existence going forward as they rip apart the life they once built together, but they both maintain that they have no regrets for coming on this show because they were able to stop a future barreling train from careening out of control, which I think is a more lyrical way of saying that now they don’t have to worry about an errant sperm hightailing it to one of Kady’s eggs, thus creating a child with a father who will never even attempt to teach that kid how to salute.

With John and Kady’s story complete, the editors blessedly give us a palate cleanser for a second or two. Yes, Shari and Javen’s relationship – the one I pronounced “f*cking doomed” during the first episode – is the only one to survive this vacation to the emotional underworld. Both are excited to reunite, both feel they have grown during the process, and neither has spent so much as one second on that island shoving a hand down the pants of a stranger. They are in a good place. But Evan and Kaci are in a place even uglier than the shirt Evan’s wearing. Now, I don’t much go for making fun of appearances on these shows, not when there is so much horrific human behavior that needs to be commented on, but this particular shirt looks like a bowl of vanilla ice cream melted on the sofa my mother bought during the late eighties, the one she will still swear today was peach and not a hideous shade of orange. Anyhoo, the guy’s shirt really doesn’t matter much. What matters is that he’s about to ditch his girlfriend of almost a decade while she sits beside him on a f*cking log in front of a camera crew because he feels a simmering chemistry with Morgan. What matters is that these two seemed to have a genuine friendship and not just a romantic relationship for a long time and now all of it is about to be over. What matters is that the producers and the editors of this show have still not shown us a single cut of a single episode that in any way explains what it is about Morgan that has caused Evan to shift the entire trajectory of his life. What matters is how I actually want there to be some reason to explain the pull this girl has on Evan and I want that explanation to involve a word other than “chemistry” because, at this point, all we’ve really seen is Evan staring at Morgan while saying scintillating variations of sentences like “Girl, you’re trouble” and “Girl, I think I’m falling in love with you” and “Girl, please don’t vomit all over your brand new sectional.” Wait – the vomit sentence was me talking to myself while watching this pile of f*cking garbage masquerading as personal growth. And making everything even worse than the chunkiest of vomit hitting my lovely dark silver sectional is the fact that just as Evan reached his moment of clarity and decided to end his relationship, Kaci reached a very different conclusion and realized she wants to be with the guy forever.

It’s looking like forever ends today.

I initially expected that Shari and Javen would reunite first and declare their undying devotion to one another. Even though they’ve both come off as rather boring on this show – which is kind of a compliment – we would watch them kiss and think, “That’s sweet. Now bring on the f*cking destruction.” But since Kaci and Evan are the next duo to meet at the Bonfire, I guess the creators of this show are attempting to craft some narrative that hauling a loved one to an isolated location, plying them with attractive people who crave camera time more than they crave oxygen, and allowing them to stare at an iPad every few days so their blood pressure will go shooting through the stratosphere while their ego plummets until it can only be measured in a subterranean manner is actually a really good way to strengthen a relationship. And should you be one of those simple people mulling over the idea of maybe applying for season two of this show, perhaps you should watch this next segment on a loop before you make your final decision.

As someone tasked with recapping this show, I think it’s important to note that I don’t think Evan is relishing the notion of hurting Kaci for even a nanosecond. I also don’t think it’s odd for him to feel more excited by someone he’s been sleeping with for less than a month than the woman he’s been undressing next to for almost ten years. Excitement can fade, emotions can shift, and the typical male perhaps doesn’t want to stay with a woman accustomed to calling him on his sh*t. I get all of that. But that understanding is as far as I’m willing to go for a guy about to gut a woman on camera. Because Evan, you see, has no regrets. He has given his heart to a woman whom we have seen do exactly nothing except stare at him with wide eyes and a smile. Kaci, however, is still hoping beyond hope that the two of them can return home and resume their relationship with a clean slate, an act that could never actually happen unless one or both of them contracts spontaneous amnesia. It’s a sweet thought, but there is really no way to have witnessed all that Kaci has witnessed and then move along swimmingly in that same relationship. She’s trying her hardest to convince herself a healthy reconciliation is possible, but the rest of us know their fireside reunion is bound to be so much of a bloodbath that I can almost swear the mosquitoes buzzing in the background sound a little bit like the revving of a chainsaw.



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